Basic Resident Canada Goose Biology
“Resident” or non-migratory Canada geese originated from the release of decoy flocks during the 1930’s and government and private stocking programs. Many flocks were started with giant Canada geese brought from the Midwest. Resident geese, as their name implies, spend most of their lives in one area.
Urban resident geese are distinct from the migratory population that nests in northern Canada. Banding studies have shown that resident geese are not simply migrant geese that stopped flying north to breed. In fact, Canada geese have a strong tendency to return to where they were born and use the same nesting and feeding sites year after year. This makes it hard to eliminate geese once they become settled in a local area and making relocation of geese problematic.
Resident Canada geese have low exposure to hunting, lack of natural predators and an abundance of food. The result is that they live longer; 15-25 year old resident geese are common. They also tend to breed earlier in life and lay larger clutches of eggs and nest in a more hospitable environment than migrant geese.
Most resident geese begin breeding when they are 2-3 years old and they nest every year for the rest of their lives. They mate for life, but if one member dies, the other will mate again. Geese lay an average of 5 eggs per nest, and most will hatch and become free-flying birds in the fall. A female goose may produce more than 50 young over her lifetime. Egg laying and incubation generally extend through April, with the peak of hatching in late April or early May, depending on location in the United States. Male geese will aggressively defend the nesting site and may attack if approached. Non-breeding juvenile geese (under three years of age) often remain nearby in feeding flocks during the nesting season. After hatching, goose families may move considerable distances from nesting area to brood-rearing area, appearing suddenly “out of nowhere” at ponds bordered by lawns.
After nesting, geese undergo an annual feather molt, a 4-5 week flightless period when they shed and re-grow their outer wing feathers. Molting occurs between mid-June and late July, and the birds resume flight in August. During the molt, geese congregate on ponds or lakes that provide a safe place to rest, feed and escape danger. Severe problems often occur at this time of year because the geese concentrate on lawns next to water.
After the molt and through the fall, geese generally increase the distance of their feeding flights and are more likely to be found away from water. Large resident flocks, sometimes joined by migrant geese in October, may feed on athletic fields and other large lawns during the day, and return to larger lakes and ponds to roost at night. This continues until ice or snow eliminates feeding areas and forces birds to other water areas nearby or to the south, where they remain until milder weather returns.
Reprinted by Permission.
Authorship: Mr. Tim Julien
President, National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA)